Women’s rights activist Bindu Ammini was on Tuesday attacked with pepper spray as she, along with Trupti Desai and four others, reached Kochi in Kerala to trek to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, reported The News Minute. Ammini was one of the two women who had entered the hilltop shrine last year.

Both Desai and Ammini reached the Kochi police commissioner’s office to seek security for their visit. However, a group of right-wing leaders reportedly argued with them, and a man threw chilli and pepper powder on her face.

The man who attacked her was identified as 28-year-old Sreenath from Thaliparamba in Kannur district. Police said the man was the state coordinator of Hindu Helpline, a service launched by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal for members of the Hindu community.

Ammini had stepped out of the commissioner’s office to collect some files when the attack took place. The protestors identified themselves as Ayyappa devotees. “You will not go to Sabarimala from here,” one of the protestors told her.

A video of the incident showed Ammini shielding herself and running away from the man. She was admitted to the General Hospital in Ernakulam district.

The Kerala Women’s Commission registered a case and initiated legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the attack, The Hindu reported.

Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran also condemned the attack against Ammini. He said the protests against the activists seemed to be part of a bigger conspiracy to disrupt the pilgrimage and create unrest in Kerala.

Former state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party Kummanam Rajasekharan claimed that neither the BJP nor the Sangh Parivar had anything to do with the attack. He said the arrested member was not associated with them, and criticised the state for its lack of commitment to protect the customs of Sabarimala.

‘Determined to go to Sabarimala,’ says Trupti Desai

Meanwhile, Desai told reporters after her arrival that she had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state police chief. “We are waiting here at the commissioner’s office for security to go to Sabarimala,” she added. “We are determined to go to Sabarimala and offer prayers, we will make sure we reach Pamba today.”

Desai had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the temple in November 2018, weeks after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50.

The Pune-based activist said the women chose November 26 to visit the shrine as it was the Constitution Day, PTI reported. “I will leave Kerala only after offering prayers at the shrine,” Desai added.

In September 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench, which included former Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had allowed women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple, leading to massive protests. Only a handful of women managed to enter the shrine.

On November 14, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled, in a 3:2 verdict, that a larger bench should again consider the matter of the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

While hearing the review petitions last year, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the verdict to allow women enter the temple stands and has not been stayed, but no such specific mention has been made as part of the latest decision.

The state government on November 15 said it will not protect women’s rights activists who plan to visit the Sabarimala temple. Kerala Devaswom Board Minister Kadakampally Surendran had said those seeking protection to visit the shrine will have to get a court order.